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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Crumbling cathedral 'needs 50m'
Canterbury Cathedral
Areas of the cathedral are being "patched up" for public safety
A 50m global fundraising campaign has begun to try to save the crumbling Canterbury Cathedral which has been ravaged by age and pollution.

Deteriorating stonework and a leaking roof mean parts of the Kent cathedral might have to be closed unless the cash is raised, fundraisers said on Tuesday.

"Visitors look at the cathedral and think it will stand for another 1,000 years," said chairman Allan Willett.

"The picture postcard image masks a very different reality."

He added: "Our message is stark, blunt and urgent - save Canterbury Cathedral, it is as simple as that."

Surveyor John Burton said the sheer size of the 560ft-long building meant replacing the 150-year-old lead on the 70ft-high roof was a "mammoth undertaking".

597 - Founded by St Augustine
1170 - Thomas Becket murdered in the cathedral acting on the words of Henry II: "who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"
1538- Henry VIII destroyed Thomas Becket's shrine
1940s- Damaged in German bombing raids

The roof had serious structural problems resulting from repairs after World War II, when supporting beams were encased in concrete.

The building's south side also had a "serious hidden defect" resulting from war damage, he said.

A fireball from a bomb dropped in 1942 created a vacuum which pulled out the outer limestone skin of the cathedral.

The void was filled with sand and cement - the only materials available at the time - which was now damaging the fabric.

Urgent repairs were needed in key areas of the cathedral to prevent them becoming health and safety hazards and closed to visitors.

South oculus window
Work is needed to protect the 12th Century south Oculus window

"We have to keep safety in mind at all times," said Mr Burton.

"The reality is that at the moment we are tying bits together and patching it up."

Half the 1m visitors to the cathedral every year pay entrance fees, but they just cover the annual running costs.

Previous renovation projects were paid for by fundraising appeals every 30 years or so, but now a permanent fundraising campaign has been set up.

"We aim to raise 50m in the next five years and then maintain the momentum," said Mr Willetts.

"It is absolutely vital that this generation takes steps to save this great cathedral for the future."

Buttresses to West Towers to avoid eventual collapse
Lead roofs on West Towers and the nave
Stonework, carvings and pinnacles on Bell Harry
Cleaning and repair to masonry in the Quire, Presbytery and Trinity Chapel
Stained glass, in particular the 12th Century south Oculus window

Canterbury and Durham are the only two cathedrals in the UK recognised as World Heritage Sites but Mr Willett said the cathedral received no funding from the government or English Heritage.

The cathedral is the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican communion and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But Lord Hattersley, who is backing the campaign, said its importance went beyond its religious significance.

"I am a practising atheist, but I come and look at Canterbury Cathedral with awe and wonder.

"It is not just a building, it's not just a cathedral, it's England in stone and glass.

"It helped form our character, our ideas, our beliefs, our optimism about the future. It would be a tragedy if it were to wear away at the edges."

See what is happening to the crumbling cathedral


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